Politics & Policy

A Million Living Nightmares

Whaddaya think, Oprah?

It’s easy for people to say they don’t believe me now. They pretend they always doubted, but I have the letters and e-mails they sent, telling me how much they loved the book, how it spoke to them, traversing the abyss from my own personal hell to theirs. Now they want their money back. Well, if they knew what was happening to me, they’d believe… But I get ahead of myself.

What’s the whole problem.

I had read 37 drug addict and alcoholic memoirs, and found them all riveting. But my life wasn’t riveting at all, so when I sat down to write my book, I focused only on the essential truths, rather than the stuff that actually happened. When my agent read the manuscript, he didn’t ask if it was a novel or memoir. He just told me to start looking for tax shelters.

Next comes the part you all know. Media tour, New York Times bestseller list, film option, a second book deal, more hair, new teeth, a girlfriend. I’m on top of the world. At least until the truth is revealed. My mother on television, saying “he was a nice boy, he never got arrested.” Assiduous researchers unable to find any record of the fatal chicken truck accident. Liberace’s estate threatening libel action.

The worst was yet to come. One morning, instead of waking up in my Noho Megaloft, I find myself in the bedroom of my childhood home, where the book began. I was lying in bed, playing Russian Roulette and smoking creosote, wanting to kill myself after having crashed into a busload of mentally handicapped children when I had drunkenly commandeered a freight truck filled with live chickens, and lost control of the vehicle while trying to shoot heroin and do shots at the same time.

“Reliving the scene in my mind, I hear the screams; I see the feathers. The gun is cold steel. Five shots, and I’m still alive. How much longer will my luck hold? I cock the hammer. The chamber revolves. ‘Come to daddy,’ I say, about to squeeze the trigger…”

Next thing I know, an Interpol Task Force leaps through my bedroom window, finding the suitcase nuke and the twelve-year-old Filipino hermaphrodite hidden in my closet. They proceed to beat me with crowbars wrapped in bath towels (so they won’t leave unsightly bruises) until every bone in my body is broken (except for three toes on my right foot which somehow remain intact). The scene quickly switches to an intensive care unit, where my roommate is Liberace. We spend our days composing show tunes; our nights chasing nurses and raiding the pharmacy.

“Tearful, Dilaudin-fogged goodbyes. Nurses clinging to each extremity. Lib adjusts his pompadour, takes off a diamond pinky ring and folds it into my hand. ‘Promise you won’t ever tell anyone I’m alive. Or heterosexual.’”

Without even so much as a transition, I’m in a rehab group-therapy session. Seated next to me are a former secretary of State, three movie stars I won’t name because they’re my friends now, the chief economist of a large brokerage firm, and a set of identical female quintuplets, all of them gorgeous, schizophrenic, and in love with me. I’m telling them about my accident, or the series of accidents that led up to the big one (retards, chickens). My story is so heartrending that the quintuplets all commit suicide that night.

Everything seems so real, I have to remind myself that it’s all just embellishments and poetic license. If none of it ever happened, then why do I see the quintuplets being zipped up into body bags? Where did I get this pinky ring?

According to the critics, my trial left no documentary record, and nobody remembers it having taken place. Yet here I am in the defendant’s chair, sitting through testimony of weeping parents and outraged chicken farmers. So far, I can deal. I’m still ready to thrown down. That is, until I’m in the holding cell, waiting to hear the verdict, when I see a court marshal reading my book.

“Do you want me to sign that for you?”

“No,” he says, “then I can’t return it.”

“Can I at least see what happens next?”

I flip through the first chapter–and everything becomes clear. The Interpol Task Force, Liberace, the quintuplets, and now the trial, which brings the chapter to a close with the verdict I am now awaiting. Guilty as charged. The court marshal glowers at me. He wants his book back. I turn the page slowly, with a sense of accumulating dread.

“Chapter Two: Maximum Insecurity. My first night in prison, four convicts held down my arms and legs, while another…”

And from there it only gets worse.

This satire is written by Stephen Weeks, an American writer living in Paris.


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